Posts Tagged 'Technology'

September 4, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Solving real problems with software engineer Neetu Jain

Do you love getting to know us in our Under the Infrastructure series? We certainly hope so, because we’re having a blast lifting the veil on our cloud layer.

Lest you think only male employees work at our fine company, this week we’re introducing you to software engineer Neetu Jain. She’s been with us a little over a year and a half, and she calls our Dallas headquarters home base.

SoftLayer: Why did you choose to become a software engineer?

Neetu Jain: When I was first introduced to programming, I felt it was pretty empowering (like, “You had me at “Hello!”). I could make the computer do whatever I wanted if done properly with a reasonable goal in mind. So that I guess lured me into it, and after that, it was a natural progression. I did my bachelor’s in electronics because I was fascinated by embedded electronics all around me, but computer science was instant gratification. You don’t have to wait at all to see the results of your creation—just run the code!

SL: You can manipulate computers. You’re like the Wizard of Oz.

Jain: In many other fields (such as construction), you must depend on people, resources, and waiting, for things to happen. Due to long turnaround cycles, sometimes it can take years before you see you see the fruits of your work. But if you can just sit down at your computer and make it happen, you have a much shorter turnaround time!

SL: Absolutely.

Jain: So, you know, it was like, “This is pretty cool.”

SL: We agree. So what’s your favorite thing about working at SoftLayer?

Jain: It’s about getting to learn new technologies. There’s a tremendous scope for learning in this domain, and you get opportunities to learn because Softlayer is growing so much.

SL: What advice would you give to someone who’s starting out in software engineering?

Jain: Ask questions. In the first year I joined the cloud domain, I was like, “OK, I’ll learn.” I wasn’t asking around too much. I wasn’t asking for feedback. I realized after a year that I had to make myself more visible. I had to ask more questions. If I had questions, I couldn’t just sit around and wait for the answers to come. I needed to ping people and be more proactive. The first year, I didn’t do that enough.

SL: People are really receptive when you’re asking questions, and they’re willing to help?

Jain: You’ll find some people who are and some people who are not. [Laughs] At least you get that information. Initially, I was working at my desk, doing and learning my stuff and waiting to prove myself. There’s nobody coming to you and asking what you’re doing, and you don’t have any visibility as a result. But if you’re proactive, people know about you, you can tell them what you’re working on, and you can ask questions about what’s going on in their world, and thus, you get to make a connection—which makes the workplace more enjoyable.

SL: We think a lot of people view software engineering as an antisocial profession.

Jain: Yeah, it is, because you can sit on your computer all day, and not talk to anybody.

SL: But you’re saying that asking questions and actually interacting is going to help you.

Jain: It does a lot. In my case, I joined the product innovation team, which was a small team. Then I was moved to another team, and they had absolutely no idea what I was working on. So, if I would’ve been more proactive and connected with them, then I could have eliminated that scenario.

SL: What do you predict or hope for the future of software engineering?

Jain: I’m the oracle now! [Laughs] I want software engineering—or, basically, any engineering—to solve real problems. I went to a hackathon, and most of the ideas were like, “Share your playlist on the road” or an Internet of Things kind of thing, like, “Take periodic pictures with geographically separated friends on the go,” and this and that. What struck me was that we had so many resources, so many amazing brains there—maybe we could have worked on more realistic issues?

There are so many things we can solve. I volunteer at a lot of organizations, especially ones that work in India: Vibha, Association for India’s Development (AID), Systers, etc. Many of the issues they face can probably be better solved through a meaningful use of technology.

For example, Annakshetra basically takes leftover food and provides it to the poor. But there’s one basic problem: how does it test the food to know if it’s fit for consumption? There needs to be a low-cost, easy-to-use solution, because if somebody gets sick, nobody’s ever going to come again. How about a low-cost litmus test where you can test and say, “OK, it’s germ-free”? I thought this should be an easily solvable problem. Why don’t we solve these kinds of problems in a hackathon rather than somebody going on a road trip sharing playlists?

SL: That’s a really good point.

Jain: Even though it was a great experience, I was a tad disappointed with the fact that there were so many of these ideas. I ended up there by accident with a friend, totally unprepared, and it was my first. I started asking questions like, “What can a smart car do? Can a smart car detect if there’s a baby inside?” (There are a lot of babies dying in locked cars due to exposure to extreme temperatures.) So if a smart car can detect whether there’s a baby inside, whether the car is locked, and whether the temperature is rising, it can send push notifications.

That’s the idea I pitched, but [the attendees] were all young grad students; none of them found it interesting—only the handful of parents and pet owners did. But in my view, that’s a real problem.

SL: It makes sense. Why don’t we figure out how to solve real problems for real people?

Jain: You could say that “real” is subjective, but I wish there was somebody who’d say, “We have limited resources; we are going to solve these problems rather than those.”

SL: Now you make us want to be software engineers.

Jain: In any field, we can all solve these problems. It’s about directing someone to think that way—you know, “While you’re thinking about this, think about that, too.”

SL: If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Any superpower at all.

Jain: To read people’s minds. [Laughs] I don’t like when people say one thing and mean something else. I am like, “I want to read your mind. What exactly do you mean?”

SL: That’s a very software engineer stance. “Now let me get behind that to understand why you said that.” That would be ours too.

Saving the world through software? Don’t say SoftLayer never taught you anything.


September 3, 2015

Cloud, Interrupted: The Official SoftLayer Podcast

Have you ever wondered what happens when you put three cloud guys in a room to talk cloud? Our curiosity was insatiable, so doggone it, we went and did it. We hereby officially present to you our brand new podcast: Cloud, Interrupted.

Join Kevin Hazard, director of digital content, Phil Jackson, lead technology evangelist, and Teddy Vandenberg, manager of network provisioning, as they wreak havoc interrupting the world of cloud.

In case you’re a skimmer, here’s the highlight reel:

  • [00:00:05] Phil isn't a Stanley, but he is a germophobe.
  • [00:01:44] Are we interrupted by the cloud or are we interrupting the cloud?
  • [00:03:22] We have goals with this podcast, we swear.
  • [00:04:34] Teddy drops the bass.
  • [00:05:58] What's a better word for "cloud" than "cloud"?
  • [00:08:12] Where social interaction influences the real world: Meet "passive computing" and the trifecta.
  • [00:10:44] Who cares what Phil has to say?
  • [00:11:51] Phil reminisces about that time he explained web hosting to the Harris County Tax Office.
  • [00:16:02] Then Teddy's analogy was used against Phil.
  • [00:19:21] IBM to the rescue!
  • [00:20:45] Oops. He had to do it again.
  • [00:23:11] New and old technologies get lost in translation. "To the cloud!"
  • [00:25:54] You exist in the cloud more and you will start to understand the cloud more.
  • [00:30:31] Now this is a podcast about Costco.
  • [00:31:03] Wait a second. Who's Kevin? And why isn't SoftLayer on Snapchat?
  • [00:32:56] Teddy's relationship with IBM is complicated, but the cat is fine.
  • [00:33:45] Hot tip: Unplug both ends of your telephone cable and reverse it.

We hope you dig it.


February 20, 2015

Create and Deliver Marketing or Transactional Emails

The SoftLayer email delivery service is a highly scalable, cloud-based, email relay solution. In partnership with SendGrid, an email as a service provider, SoftLayer customers are able to create and deliver marketing or transactional emails via the customer portal or SendGrid APIs.

The SoftLayer email delivery service isn’t a full corporate email solution. It’s intended as a simplified method for delivering digital marketing (e.g., newsletters and coupons) and transactional content (e.g., order confirmation, shipping notice, and password reset) to customers.


Traditionally, email is first sent through an outbound mail server that’s configured and maintained in-house, which is often costly and difficult to maintain.

With the SoftLayer email delivery service, the process is simplified; the only requirement is a connection to the Internet.

Package Comparison

The following table lists the service levels available to SoftLayer customers. The Free and Basic tiers are suitable for smaller applications with lower volume requirements. The Advanced and Enterprise levels are more suitable for larger applications and customers that require enhanced monitoring and other advanced features. Note that marketing emails are only available in the Advanced and Enterprise tiers.

Getting Started

Use the following steps to sign up for the SoftLayer email delivery service.

  1. Log on to the customer portal.
  2. Click Services, Email Delivery.
  3. Click the Order Email Delivery Service link at the top of the page.
  4. Choose your desired package, and fill out the required information. Remember for marketing emails, you must select either the Advanced or Enterprise packages.

Configuring a Marketing Email

Most of your interaction will be through the vendor portal provided by SendGrid. The following steps outline how to compose and deliver a marketing email to a list of subscribers.

  1. From the SoftLayer customer portal, navigate to Services, Email Delivery Service and click Actions, Access Vendor Portal for your desired account.
  2. Once in the SendGrid portal, click the Marketing Email link.

  1. You’ll be taken to the Marketing Email Dashboard. Click the Create a Sender Address button.
  2. Fill in the required information and click Save.
  3. Navigate back to the Marketing Email Dashboard, and click the Create Recipient List button.
  4. Enter a name for the list in the List Name field. Be sure that it’s something meaningful, such as Residential Customers.

  1. You can either Upload a list of contact emails or Add recipients manually. When adding the recipients manually, you’ll be asked verify the addresses that you enter. Click the Save button when done entering addresses.

  1. Navigate back to the Marketing Email Dashboard and click the Create Marketing Email button.
  2. Enter the title of the email in the Marketing Email Title field. Under Pick a Sender Address, select either a list or select recipients for the email. Choose your content type and how to send the email. Split Test my Marketing Email, under Choose how to send your Marketing Email, is an advanced feature that lets you send different recipients different versions of the same email—sending the different versions helps determine which version is most effective.

  1. Select the list of recipients to whom the email is to be sent and click Save.

  1. Next, select the template for the email. Options include Basic, Design, and My Saved Templates.

  1. Enter your email content. Make sure to provide a message subject.
  2. Review your email, and select when you would like it sent—Send Now, based on a Schedule, or Save As Draft. Click Finish when you’re done, or Save & Exit for a draft.

  1. You will then be brought back to the Marketing Email Dashboard where you can monitor the results of your email campaign.

Setting Up a Transactional Email

The following example shows how to integrate your app with SendGrid to send new users a welcome email. This example makes use of the SendGrid template engine, although it’s not required.

  1. From the SendGrid portal, click the Template Engine button.
  2. Click the Create Template button, enter the Template Name, and click Save.

  1. Design and modify your email and click Save when finished.

  1. Your new template should now be Active and ready to be used by the API.
  2. Click the Apps link in the top navigation bar.

  1. Click the Template Engine link on the right side of the screen.

  1. Take note of the ID of the template you just created.

  1. Use the curl utility to test your email via the SendGrid Web API.
  2. Execute the following to send a test email using your new template.

curl -d 'to=&subject="Test
subject"&text="Test Body"&from=&api_user=;api_key=

For more information on how the SoftLayer email delivery service can help you get back to your core business, check out this blog post.


Worldwide Channel Solutions Architect for SoftLayer, an IBM Company

February 9, 2015

Eradicating Ebola with Grid Computing Linked by the SoftLayer Network

On September 30, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control confirmed the first case of Ebola in the U.S. Although not uncommon to hear of outbreaks in other parts of the world, this first case in the U.S. just happened to be in our own headquarters’ backyard—Dallas.

IBM jumped at the opportunity to help find a cure or at least a treatment for the virus, not necessarily because SoftLayer happened to be in the “storm’s eye,” but as Stanley S. Litow, IBM’s vice president of Corporate Citizenship and president of the IBM International Foundation said, “It is a privilege to partner with The Scripps Research Institute to advance the process of identifying an Ebola cure.”

But finding a cure is difficult. The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), an independent, not-for-profit organization has been researching Ebola for the past 11 years. Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire, says, “We’ve solved the structures that explain what the surface of Ebola virus looks like, how it attaches to and drives itself into cells, and how it behaves like a wolf in sheep’s clothing in hiding itself from an immune response.” [Read more on the research.] Finding a cure could take hundreds of years of computing time—not manpower. And now that more people are more mobile, it is vital to find a cure since the disease can easily spread over vast distances and quickly escalate into an epidemic.

The Technology Behind The Science

IBM’s philanthropic division, Corporate Citizenship, created World Community Grid in 2004 as a way for individuals to donate their spare processing power from their personal computers, tablets, and mobile phones when not in use. The World Community Grid is utilizing grid computing for researchers, like TSRI, to accelerate their research by breaking the research into millions of little tasks. When a device is not in use, it downloads one of these tasks, calculates, and then sends it back to the researchers when complete. Instead of utilizing one super computer, researchers harness the power of a virtual super computer. This collection of computing power is all connected via the SoftLayer network.

After the Ebola outbreak last fall, the number of infections increased steadily until last week. Officials link the increase to emergency funds for containing the disease in West Africa starting to run out. We may not see Ebola cured overnight, but thanks to grid computing and the efforts of scientists and individuals donating their idle computing power resources, hopefully treatments and vaccinations for this disease and many other diseases can be developed sooner.


October 20, 2014

Clean Your Virtual Desktop Day

“A national holiday specifically for cleaning! Be still my heart,” said the neat freak.

So, I didn’t really know how to start this blog post because my virtual desktop is pretty clean. I adhere to the school of thought, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Does this make me a neat freak void of any creativity? More on that later.

With that being said, I started with a quick Google search for “de-cluttering your desktop.” I didn’t realize there would be so many articles on the subject. No surprise, Martha Stewart even posted an article about the topic full of words like “tidy,” “unholy mess,” and “. . . makes people cranky.”


Come back.

We’re not going to talk about Martha’s how-to guide here. [This is SoftLayer—the only how-to guides posted here are about CSS.] I actually found some pretty cool ideas that I’d like to pass on to our readers in honor of the day.

I came across a tutorial on how to create a wallpaper for your desktop in which you “drop” your desktop icons into appropriate sections. The tutorial used Adobe Photoshop, but if you’re like me, Photoshop-illiterate, you can use PowerPoint (I find it so much easier, albeit limiting). Here’s a screen shot of my desktop.

For our more tech-savvy readers . . . download Fences®. It’s basically the same thing as the DIY version I described above, but it allows you to place your icons into resizable shaded areas on your desktop. Pretty cool!

Most people store files on their desktops because they think it makes it easier to find them, but sooner or later, your desktop gets overrun by these once easy-to-find files. If you want something that will keep your desktop free from any documents, install a launcher program. There are lots to choose from, including LaunchBar, Quicksilver, Launchy, or AutoHotkey. Once installed, the program is activated by a keystroke combination. When it opens, start typing the program, folder name, or file you want open. According to users, it’s faster than locating the icon on your desktop and double-clicking. Many users claim they don’t know how they lived without it for so long.

My last tip is similar to when your mom asks you to clean your room, and all you do is shove everything under your bed. Same thing here. Just hide all those icons.

  1. Right click on your desktop
  2. Select View
  3. Unselect Show your desktop icons

That’s right. Out of sight. Out of mind.

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

I don’t know what Albert Einstein was implying when he said that, but I do know personally that a messy desk lowers my productivity. Does this lower my creativity too?

After reviewing a few different studies on whether or not clutter produces creativity or chaos, I have come to the conclusion that if you need to accomplish practical chores like paying bills or replying to emails, you need a clutter-free workspace to focus. If you need to be creative, clutter can distract you and let you think outside of the box.

Personally, I don’t think that a clean slate lowers my creativity because I can’t even begin to work if it is messy. But, some people thrive in chaos. Hey, whatever works.

Happy Cleaning/Cluttering!


October 3, 2014

Happy National Techies Day!

Today marks the 15th anniversary of National Techies Day—originally started to encourage students to learn more about a career in technology.

To be honest, we get teary-eyed when we hear young techies say they want to be a computer programmer, engineer, or a web developer when they grow up. Techies define, redefine, and refine the world, and the future techies will push the limits further than we ever imagined. How exciting!

At SoftLayer, National Techies Day has a special place deep in our HeartLayer. If you frequent our blog regularly or follow us on Twitter, you’ve seen us mention “Innovate or Die” once or twice . . . or a hundred times. It’s our motto. And, really when you break it down, National Techies Day celebrates technology and innovation and the people that keep us moving forward; for without innovation, we truly become stagnant.

It’s like our CEO, Lance Crosby said, "We don’t want to build a company to meet customers’ currents needs. We want to build a company to meet the needs our customers don’t even know they have yet.

So this National Techies Day we’d like to thank all the trailblazers who came before us. For all those who were teased and called nerd and geek, we thank you; for now we proudly wear these classifications as badges of honor.

We’d like to thank all the tech CEOs for making it socially acceptable to wear jeans and t-shirts to work every day; I am literally wearing a SoftLayer t-shirt and jeans right now as I type, so thanks.

We’d also like to remind all the non-techies out there to give a big shout-out to your IT department techies for getting you back online when you get the dreaded blue screen or experience other equally terrifying “my PC is acting up” situations. (“Did you try turning it off and on again?”)

And finally, to all the kids out there who know how to operate every technological device at home better than their parents, let us just say, working in technology is totally awesome (!), and we can’t wait to see what great things y’all will come up with in the future.


October 2, 2014

SoftLayer Rocks the 2014 cPanel Conference

For the past two days, SoftLayer set up shop at the 2014 cPanel® Conference held in Houston, TX. We mingled. We administered the Server Challenge II (more on that later) . . . And, we talked to Aaron Phillips, chief business officer at cPanel.

Holy cup of coffee; this guy has so much energy! Clad in shorts, a t-shirt, and Adidas Gazelle’s, this CBO was not what I expected, but neither is cPanel for that matter. Reading Phillips’ bio offers a glimpse into the cPanel culture; he pokes fun at the fact he never thought he would be working for a “company started by a 14-year-old genius.”(Maybe that’s why he can get away with the shorts.)

Regardless, you can’t dismiss cPanel’s expertise when it comes to specializing in control panel software. The cPanel software package automates server tasks by providing an accessible interface to help website owners manage their sites.

So Aaron, can you give us a brief overview of what the cPanel conference is all about?

The cPanel Conference is in its ninth year, and we really put this together to network, talk about web hosting, and give our partners a sneak peek at what we’re up to. I attended the event even before I came onboard at cPanel, and each year just gets bigger and better. It’s the conference I look forward to each year.

Oh yeah? Any big announcements this week?

Yep. We have a new update to our system. Our user interface is available in 29 languages. It’s really going to help our global customers and help our partners that have global customers like SoftLayer.

How so?

The quality of translations have improved dramatically. The older system we called LANG often created partial sentences which caused a lot of problems with translations. Our ‘newer model,’ Maketext, is more flexible and feature rich. We’ve also edited our content on the interface making it easier to translate. This also eases translation in languages read from right-to-left.

When do you anticipate a go-live date?

We’re in the beta stage but will be complete soon. Like, any day now.

Speaking of SoftLayer, what does cPanel think of us?

You guys were one of our first customers, and you’re one of our biggest customers. We go way back . . . like EV1 days. We love you guys over at SoftLayer. Enjoy the conference! Gotta run.

[Maybe that’s why he wears the Gazelle’s].

Speaking the Language – 29 Languages

Arabic French Japanese Spanish
Chinese German Korean Swedish
Czech Greek Latin American Spanish Thai
Danish Hebrew Malay Traditional Chinese
Dutch Hungarian Norwegian Turkish
English Iberian Spanish Polish Ukrainian
Filipino Indonesian Portuguese Vietnamese
Finnish Italian Romanian

The Server Challenge II Continues to Kick aaS and Take Names
We don’t like to brag, but we have the best booth setup of all time. Why? Because of the Server Challenge II. We would like to congratulate Mike Levine, Product Manager at OpenSRS (with the high score of 1:00.05) who beat out the hundreds of contenders who participated at the 2014 cPanel Conference.


September 11, 2014

The Cloud Doesn't Bite, Part II

Why it's OK to be a server hugger—a cloud server hugger.

(This is the second post in a three-part series. Read the first post here.)

By now, you probably understand the cloud enough to know what it is and does. Maybe it's something you've even considered for your own business. But you're still not sold. You still have nagging concerns. You still have questions that you wish you could ask, but you're pretty sure no cloud company would dignify those questions with an honest, legitimate response.

Well we’re a cloud company, and we’ll answer those questions.

Inspired by a highly illuminating (!) thread on Slashdot about the video embedded below, we've noticed that some of you aren't ready to get your head caught up in the cloud just yet. And that's cool. But let's see if maybe we can put a few of those fears to rest right now.

"[With the cloud], someone you don't know manages [your cloud servers], and they can get really unaccountable at times."

Hmm. Sounds like somebody's had a bad experience. (We're sorry to hear that.) But in truth, cloud computing companies are nothing without reputation, integrity, and, well, security upon security upon security measures. Accountability is the name of the game when it comes to you trusting us with your critical information. Research, research, research the company you choose before you hand anything over. If the measures that a potential cloud provider take don't cut the mustard with you, jump ship immediately—your business is way too important! But you're bound to find one that has all the necessary safeguards in place to provide you with plenty of peace of mind.

Oh, and by the way, have we mentioned that some cloud infrastructure providers put the deployment, management, and control in the hands of their customers? Yup. They just hand the reins right over and give you complete access to easy-to-use management tools, so you can automate your cloud solution to fit your unique needs. So there's that.

"The nickel-and-dime billing that adds up awfully damned quickly. Overall, if you're not careful you can rack upwards of $4k/mo just to host a handful of servers with hot backups and a fair amount of data and traffic on them."

You're right. That's why it's important to plan your cloud architecture before you go jumping in. Moving to the cloud isn't something you do with your eyes closed and with a lack of information. Know your company's business needs and find the best solution that fits those needs—every single one of those needs. Be realistic. Assess intelligently. Know your potential provider's add-on costs (if any) ahead of time so that you can anticipate them. Sure, add-ons can pile up if you're caught off-guard. But we know you're too smart for that to be a problem.

Play around with your possibilities before you sign on that dotted line. If you can't, search for a provider who'll let you play before you pay.

"Many cloud services break many privacy laws. The service provider can see/use the data too. Some of us are even bound by law to maintain the integrity of certain classes of information (personal, medical, financial). Yielding physical control to another organization, no matter what their reputation, removes your ability to perform due diligence. How do I know that what I legally have to keep private really is private?"

Sigh. Okay, we hear this fear; we really do, but it's just not true. Not for any reputable cloud solutions provider that wants to stay in business, anyway. We, grown-ups of cloud computing, take the security of your data very, very seriously. There are hackers. There are malicious attacks. There are legal compliance issues. And for those, we have Intrusion Protection Software, firewalls, SSL certificates, and compliance standards, just to name a few. We can handle what you throw at us, and we respect and honor the boundaries of your data.

So let's talk nitty gritty details. You're probably most familiar with the public cloud, or virtual servers. Yes, infrastructure platforms are shared, but that doesn't mean they're pooled—and it certainly doesn't mean universal accessibility. Your virtual server is effectively siloed from the virtual servers of every other client on that public server, and your data is accessible by you and only you. If you think about it like an apartment complex, it makes a lot of sense. The building itself is multi-tenant, but only you have the key to the contents of your individual unit.

On the other hand, bare metal servers are mansions. You're the only one taking up residence on that dedicated server. That big bad house is yours, and the shiny key belongs to you, and you only. (Check you out, Mr. Big Stuff.) You have complete and utter control of this server, and you can log, monitor, and sic the dogs on any and all activity occurring on it. Bare metal servers do share racks and other network gear with other bare metal servers, but you actually need that equipment to ensure complete isolation for your traffic and access. If we use the real estate analogy again and bare metal servers are mansions, then anything shared between bare metal servers are access roads in gated communities and exist only to make sure the mailman, newspaper delivery boy, and milkman can deliver the essential items you need to function. But no one's coming through that front door without your say so.

We cloud folk love our clients, and we love housing and protecting their data—not sneaking peeks at it and farming it out. Your security means as much to us as it means to you. And those who don't need access don't have it. Plain and simple.

"I don't want [my data] examined, copied, or accidentally Googled."

You don't say? Neither do we.

"What happens to my systems when all of your CxOs decide that they need more yachts so they jack up the pricing?"

They stay put, silly. No one takes systems on the boat while yachting. Besides, we don't do yachts here at SoftLayer—we prefer helicopters.

Stay tuned for the last post in this series, where we discuss your inner control freak, invisible software, and real, live people.


September 3, 2014

The Cloud Doesn’t Bite, Part I

Why it's OK to be a server hugger—a cloud server hugger.

By now, you probably understand the cloud enough to know what it is and does. Maybe it's something you've even considered for your own business. But you're still not sold. You still have nagging concerns. You still have questions that you wish you could ask, but you're pretty sure no cloud company would dignify those questions with an honest, legitimate response.

Well we’re a cloud company, and we’ll answer those questions.

Inspired by a highly illuminating (!) thread on Slashdot about the video embedded below, we've noticed that some of you aren't ready to get your head caught up in the cloud just yet. And that's cool. But let's see if maybe we can put a few of those fears to rest right now.

"I'm worried about cloud services going down or disappearing, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it."

Let's just get one thing straight here: we're human, and the devices and infrastructures and networks we create are fallible. They're intelligent and groundbreaking and mind-boggling, but they are—like us—susceptible to bad things and prone to error at any given time.

But it's not the end of the world if or when it happens. Your cloud service provider has solutions. And so do you.

First, be smart about who you choose to work with. The larger, more reputable a company you select, the less likely you are to experience outages or outright disappearances. It's the nature of the beast—the big guys aren't going out of business any time soon. And if the worst should happen, they're not going down without a fight for your precious data.

Most outages end up being mere temporary blips that generally don’t last long. It'd take a major disaster (think hurricane or zombie apocalypse) to take any cloud-based platform out for more than a few hours. Which, of course, sounds like a long time, but we're talking worst case scenario here. And in the event of a zombie apocalypse, you probably have bigger fish to fry anyway.

But the buck doesn't stop there. Moving data to the cloud doesn't mean you get to kick up your heels, and set cruise control. (You don't really want that anyway, and you know it.) Be proactive. Know your service-level agreements, and make sure your system structures are built in a way that you're not losing out when it comes to outages and downtime. Know your provider's plan for redundancy. Know what monitoring systems are in place. Identify which applications and data are critical and should be treated differently in the event of a worst case scenario. Have a plan in the event of doomsday. You wouldn't go head first into sharknado season without a strategy for what to do if disaster hits, right? Why would the (unlikely) downfall of your data be any different?

Remember when we backed things up to external hard drives; before we'd ever heard of that network in the sky (a quaint concept, we know)? Well, we think it would behoove you to have a backup of what's essential to you and your business.

In fact, being realistic about technology these days is paramount. We can't prevent failure because we know better. According to Microsoft's chief reliability strategist, David Bills, "It's about designing resilient services in which inevitable failures have a minimal effect on service availability and functionality."

In any event, don't panic. You think you're freaking out about the cloud going down? Chances are, your provider is one step ahead of you already.

"Most of the time you don't find out about the cloud host's deficiencies until far too late." "One cloud company I had a personal Linux server with got hit with a DOS attack, and their response was to ignore their customer service email and phone for almost a week while trying to clean it up.”

Uh. Call us crazy, but we're guessing that company's no longer around—just a hunch.

We cloud infrastructure providers don't exactly pride ourselves on hoarding your data and then being completely inaccessible to you. Do your research on potential providers. Find out how easy it is (or difficult as the case may be) to get a hold of your customer service team. Make sure your potential provider's customer support meets your business needs. Make sure there's extra expertise available to you if you need personal attention or a little TLC. Make sure those response times are to your liking. Make sure those methods of contact are diverse enough and align with the way you do work.

We know you don't want to need us, but when you do need us, we are here for you.

"Of course, you have to either provide backup yourself, or routinely hard-verify the cloud provider's backup scheme. And you'd better have a backup-backup offsite recovery contract for when the cloud provider announces it can't really recover (e.g. Hurricane Sandy). And a super-backup-backup plan in case the cloud provider disappears with no forwarding address or has all its servers confiscated by DHS."

Hey, you don't have to have any of these things if your data's not that important to you. But if you'd have backups of your local servers, why wouldn't you have backups of anything you put in the cloud?

We thought so.

Nota bene: Sounds like you might want to take up some of this beef with Hurricane Sandy.

Stay tuned for part two where we tackle accountability, security, and buying ourselves new yachts.

- Fayza

May 20, 2014

The Next Next

Last month in Europe, I had a chance to participate is some interesting discussions at The Next Web (TNW) Europe and NEXT Berlin conferences. The discussions centered around where we are on the curve of technology development, what the scene looks like now, and what the future holds. TNW Europe inspired me to share my thoughts here on the topic of inevitable market evolution, in particular which aspects will be instrumental in this progress and the empowering phenomenon of embracing the possibility to fail and change.

Attending NEXT Berlin boosted my confidence about those conclusions and motivated me to write a few words of a follow up. Connected cars, or “new mobility,” Internet of Things, smart houses, e-health, and digitalized personal medicine, application of cloud and big data in various industries from automotive, to home appliances, to army, and to FMCG, all are proof that the world is changing at a stunning pace. And all that is fueled by the evolution of organizations and how they set up their IT, hosting strategies and environments.

The most invigorating talk, in my opinion, at NEXT Berlin was given by Peter Hinssen. His keynote on The New Normal gave the audience a couple solid “ah” and “ha” moments. Here are some of the highlights I took away from the talk:

  • Technology is not only relevant to (almost) every aspect of our lives; it is in fact obvious, if not commoditized. Digital is present everywhere, from grocery shopping, to stopping at traffic lights, to visiting a dentist office, to jogging, to going to the movies, to sharing holidays greetings with our friends, to drinking fresh water from our taps, and so on. Technology we use privately usually surpasses what we use at work. The moment we receive access to something new, we immediately expect that to be working seamlessly and we get irritated if it doesn’t (think: national coverage of LTE, Wi-Fi available on board of aircrafts, streamed HD on-demand television, battery life of smart devices). We take technology for granted, not because we’re arrogant, but because it is omnipresent.
  • Information and technology are becoming equally available to all, leveling the landscape and helping organizations stay ahead and constantly re-invent themselves. Access to data and new tools is no longer a privilege and luxury that only the biggest fish can afford. Nowadays, thanks to an expansive spectrum of as-a-service offerings, every organization can get an insight of their buyers’ attitudes and behaviors and change accordingly to gain competitive advantage. Those who resist to constantly remodel the way they operate and serve the market, will be quickly outrun by dozens of those who understand the value of being agile.
  • Organizations and markets run on two different clocks: one is internal, the other is external, and very often they are unsynchronized. The bigger the gap between the clocks, the less chance for that organizations survival. People learn new technologies very fast and become their users faster in private than professional space. Legacy processes, miscommunication, misperception, and sometimes ignorance overshadow the reality that the progress is on a slower lane when it comes to business. The development is unstoppable and it keeps on becoming more complex and more intense. Not to fall behind, organization need to become ‘fluid’ to respond real-time to those flux conditions.
  • Society and markets are operating as networks. In order to serve them efficiently, businesses need to reorganize their structures to operate as networks. With the dominance of social, the typical organizational hierarchy is detached from buyer’s mentality. In our private lives, we trust more of our peers, we give more credibility to influencers who have solid network of followers, and best ideas are fueled by different, unrelated sources. Applying the same principles to professional environments, restructuring the organizational chart from top-down reporting lines to more of a network topography, hence going beyond traditional divisions, silos, and clusters, will boost the internal creativity and innovation.
  • Information is not a pool with a fixed option to “read” and “write “anymore. It is actually fluid and should be seen more as a river with infinite number of branches and customers sitting at the heart of each cluster. It is not an organization who decides what and when is being said and known. The discretion belongs to users and buyers, who share widely their insights, reviews, likes, and opinions and whose recommendations—either coming from an individual or in an aggregated form—are much more powerful. At the same time that set of information is not static, but dynamic. Organizations should respect, embrace, and adapt actively to that flow.

Peter claims we’re probably not even half way down the S curve of that transformation. Being part of it, seeing those disruptive organizations grow on our platform, having a chance to talk to so many smart people from all over the world who shape the nowadays societies and redefine businesses, is one of the most thrilling aspects of working for SoftLayer. Even if my grandma still associates cloud with weather conditions, I know my kids will be all “no way” once I tell them a story of how we were changing the world.

Wondering what will be the age test for them…

- Michalina

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